Ask The Expert

Mood Food – 6 Nutrients to Nourish and Make You Feel Good

Aliza Marogy pioneered the application of nutrition and functional medicine to health before it became mainstream. She is a respected clinical nutritionist, naturopath and international speaker. Here, she shares 6 nutrients which can help nourish your body and make you feel good.

Often when thinking of foods to lift our mood, our minds wander to carb-rich or sugary treats – comfort food that perhaps reminds us of happier times or being nurtured as a child. Whilst there is a scientific basis to the mood-boosting effects of carbohydrates – which have been shown to increase levels of the ‘happy chemical’ serotonin in our brains – consumed in excess without sufficient activity, carbohydrates may lead to weight gain and feelings of sluggishness, as well as guilt, which may not make us feel so great.

Aliza is a clinical nutritionist, evidence-based naturopath and founder & CEO of Inessa nutritional supplements

These foods may also lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can affect our mood and lead to irritability. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy that big bowl of creamy pasta or slice of cake, but there are other foods – many of which offer additional health benefits – which can also play a role in lifting our mood. If you’re eating to feel happier, consider including the following nutrients via your diet:

1. MAGNESIUM

Magnesium, a mineral found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate, plays an important role in the body and is involved in over 300 different chemical reactions, including in the brain. It’s not uncommon for modern-day diets to lack magnesium, and studies indicate that a deficit of this important mineral can be a  contributing factor in several mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Magnesium is known to calm the nervous system, assisting with fear, irritability, and restlessness, all common symptoms of stress. An additional bonus is that magnesium is known to improve sleep quality – something we know to be an essential factor in governing our mood – through the regulation of GABA levels, a neurotransmitter which promotes slumber.

2. B VITAMINS

B-vitamins can be found in a variety of foods including whole grains, meat, fish, dairy, eggs and dark green leafy vegetables. B-vitamins work best in conjunction with one another, as each type appears to have a slightly different action on aspects contributing to mood regulation. B-vitamins give us a ‘lift’ via their role in the synthesis of serotonin, reducing feelings of anxiety and depression, improving sleep quality, and balancing blood sugar – which is important, as low levels cause the body to produce the stress hormone cortisol.

3. FOLATE

It’s always been sound advice to ‘eat your greens’, because dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, chard, kale, and spring cabbage contain high amounts of folate. Although folate is classed as a B-vitamin, it deserves its own mention, as it is an essential nutrient for supporting mental health. Studies show that people with depression tend to have lower dietary intake and blood levels of folate compared with those without the condition. The mechanism is not fully understood, though it is thought that folate deficiency may impair the metabolism of the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.

4. ZINC

Zinc is often lacking in processed foods and vegan diets, as major sources of this essential mineral are meat, fish and poultry. Although present in plant foods, its uptake by the body may be compromised when compared with zinc derived from animal products. Zinc is involved in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress and it has been found that zinc deficiency may lead to symptoms of depression and low mood.

5. IODINE

Fish, shellfish, and iodised salt contain iodine, a nutrient critical for the optimum functioning of the thyroid gland. The thyroid affects the body in many ways, including management of our energy levels, immune function and brain performance as well as mood. Iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormones, and it is found that people with under-functioning thyroid glands can often feel low.

6. OMEGA-3

Omega-3 fatty acids are known as ‘essential fats’ because our bodies can’t make them, and so they must be included in our diet, the richest source being found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Depression has long been linked with a diet low in omega-3, and countries that consume a lot of these fats have a lower incidence of this condition. Research has shown that fish oil, which contains fatty acids EPA and DHA, can be as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of depression. One theory as to why omega-3s are able to lift mood is that DHA primarily plays a role in developing neurons, while EPA is crucial for chemical signalling between brain cells and can influence levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.

References

[1] McManus, S. Bebbington, P. Jenkins, R. et al. (2016) ‘Mental health wellbeing in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2014’ Leeds: NHS digital.

[2] Sarton, S. Whittle, N. Helzenauer, A. et al. (2012) ‘Magnesium deficiency induces anxiety an HPA axis dysregulation: Modulation by therapeutic drug treatment’ Neuropharmacology 62(1);304-312.

[3] D’Angelo, E. Singer, H. Rembold, C. et al. (1992) ‘Magnesium relaxes arterial smooth muscle by decreasing intracellular Ca2+ without changing intracellular Mg2+’ J Clin Invest 89(6);1988-1994.

[4] Nath, A. Tran, T. Shope, T. et al. (2017) ‘Prevalence of clinical thiamine deficiency in individuals with medically complicated obesity’ Nutrition Research 37;29-36.

[5] Muss, C. Mosgoeller, W. & Endler, T. (2016) ‘Mood improving potential of a vitamin trace element composition – A randomised, double blind, placebo controlled clinical study with healthy volunteers Neuroendocrinology Letters 37(1).

[6] Huskisson, E Maggini, S. Ruf, M. et al. (2007) ‘The influence of micronutrients on cognitive function and performance’ J Int Med Res 35(1);1-19.

[7] De Souza, M. Walker, A. Robinson, P. et al. (2000) ‘ A synergistic effect of a daily supplement for 1 month of 200mg of magnesium plus 50mg of B6 for the relief of anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms’ J Womens Health Gender Based Med 9(2);131-139.

[8] Jazayeri, S. Tehrani-Doost, M. Keshavarz, S. et al. (2008) ‘Comparison of therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine, separately and in combination, in major depressive disorder’ Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 42(3);192-198.

[9] De Vries, S. Christophe, A. and Maes, M. (2004) ‘In humans the seasonal variation in polyunsaturated fatty acids is related to the seasonal variation in violent suicide and serotonergic markers of violent suicide Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 71(1);13-18.

[10] Bender, A. Hagan, K. and Kingston, N. (2017) ‘The association of folate and depression; a meta-analysis’ Journal of Psychiatric Research 95;9-18.

[11] Bottiglieri, T. Laundy, M. Crellin, R. et al. (2000) ‘Homocysteine, folate, methylation and monoamine metabolism in depression’ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 69;228-232.

[12] Szewczyk, B. Kubera, M. and Nowak, G. (2011) ‘The role of zinc in neurodegenerative inflammatory pathways in depression’ Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry’ 35(3);693-701.

[13] Wu, H. Zhong, H. Xu, Y. et al. (2016) ‘ Psychological and behavioural intervention improves the quality of life and mental health of patients suffering from differentiated thyroid cancer treated with post-operative radioactive iodine-131’ Neuropsychiatric Disease Treatment 12;1055-1060.

About the expert

Aliza Marogy is founder and CEO of Inessa. The internationally loved brand is derived from a combination of scientific-based evidence and first-hand experience of chronic pain and the power of quality supplements. Aliza managed her own autoimmune condition – Ulcerative Colitis – into remission using a combination of diet and supplements, despite doctors opinions that a colostomy bag was the only way forward. Medical consultants assured Aliza that her remission was temporary (with an estimation of one year relapse time), nearly two decades on Aliza has not had to take immunosuppressant drugs since.

Aliza has dedicated her life to helping others in similar situations, retraining as a clinical nutritionist and evidence-based naturopath and founding her own clinical practice before launching an industry-leading nutritional supplement company, Inessa, which has built an international following and Amazon bestselling status for the past 2 years.

Having been a pioneer of the application of nutrition and functional medicine to health nearly two decades ago, before it became mainstream, she has been present at many speaker events globally such as Silicon Valley Comes To The UK and invited to represent the UK by the Government for a US trade mission.

Follow her on Instagram at @aliza_marogy

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